The news out of Texas continues to worsen. Thousands have been rescued from inundated homes in Houston and surrounding towns and cities, but authorities have confirmed at least six flood-related deaths in America’s fourth-largest city and another in coastal Rockport as flood waters continue to rise.
Forecasters say the storm could pick up strength and hammer the Houston area again, as Dayton — which is less than 40 miles east of Texas’ most populous city — already is nearing 40 inches of rain since Friday.
“This is going to be a long haul,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, said during an afternoon news conference from Corpus Christi. Added Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, “We need to recognize that there’s going to be a new normal — a new and different normal for this entire region.” He noted that the entire 12,000-strong Texas National Guard has been deployed.
The rain continues to fall in many parts of southeast Texas and into Louisiana as the center of the storm has moved less than 75 miles since it made landfall Friday as Category 4 Hurricane Harvey. Some 11 trillion gallons of water already has fallen in the area, 15-20 more inches expected as the storm continues to churn, at 2 mph for the next 48 hours. Many areas are or will be under multiple feet of water, prompting rescues by authorities and good Samaritans in private boats and other watercraft. The Army Corps of Engineers has begun releasing water from two local dams.
FEMA administrator Brock Long put the disaster into perspective with a single line during the presser: “We are going to be here for several years helping you guys recover.” The federal emergency agency said earlier today that more than 5,500 people already are in shelters, and it expects that number to reach 30,000 eventually. Long added that trucks already are arriving with 2 million meals and 2 million liters of water, along with other essential supplies.
“The most important thing we have is our lives,” said Abbott, who has made a state disaster declaration for 54 counties. “And to be able to get through the storm the way we did and save so many lives is nothing short of remarkable. … There is a reality we have to come to grips with, and that is we are just beginning the process of responding to this storm. We are still involved in the search-and-rescue process. Our No. 1 goal — from Corpus Christi all the way to east of Houston is still protecting and preserving life and rescuing every person that we can find.”
He added, “I would have to grade the federal government’s response as an A-plus. This is, if not the largest, it has to be categorized as one of the largest disasters America has ever faced, and to see the swift response from the federal government is pretty much unparalleled.”
Cornyn said earlier: “We’re trying to save people’s lives. We’re trying to make sure they have a place to live, safe water to drink, sewage, electricity and like. But this is going to be a long challenge.”
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will visit the region on Tuesday.